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Diving in Sulawesi

Manado and Wakatobi ...

Diving in Wakatobi, Sulawesi - photo courtesy of James Watt

The sprawling fingers of Sulawesi give this island over 6,000 km of coastline against which laps pristine warm waters rich in marine life. The dramatic topography continues offshore, with abyssal trenches and sheer drop-offs right up against the coastline.

Explore the waters around this celebrated island via a stay in a Sulawesi dive resort. Once you've dived here you will understand the enthusiasm of frequent visitors, many of who claim that there is nowhere else on earth that offers such diverse and exciting underwater experiences.

In many areas strong currents bring nutrient-rich water from the ocean depths close to shore, creating one of the most beautiful coral environments in the world. In terms of sheer diversity and variety of scuba diving, Sulawesi is quite possibly one of the best dive destinations in the world. Just take a closer look at what it has to offer and you'll soon see why ...


The highlights of diving in Sulawesi all depend on what you are interested in. Just to the east of Manado is the magical muck dive wonderland of Lembeh Strait, with its seemingly endless promises of discovery of rare and unusual critters. If you've ever watched a National Geographic documentary on some strange underwater creature and wondered where it was filmed, well the chances are high that it was probably filmed here!

The world-famous Bunaken National Park, off the north east tip of Sulawesi, is often quoted among the world's top 10 dive destinations and is a mecca for divers of all levels. Very few places in the world offer such biodiversity and that means there is something for everyone; it is the stuff of photographers' dreams.

The remote Wakatobi archipelago in south Sulawesi is one of the most exciting destinations in Indonesia, pure diving pleasure in a far-flung tropical paradise island setting. These pristine reefs have won extraordinary praise for their abundant fish life and healthy corals.

How to Dive Sulawesi

With 3 quite distinct world-class scuba destinations sitting on its doorstep, diving in North Sulawesi alone will keep most ardent divers happy. Bunaken National Marine Park offers schools of fish and healthy coral walls. There are a number of Manado dive resorts to choose from here.

Blood-drop nudibranch - Sulawesi, Indonesia - photo courtesy of Massimo Boyer

The Lembeh Strait is the world's capital for muck diving par excellence. There is literally nowhere better for bizarre critters. It is such a small area that the dive sites are likely to be no more than 10 minutes boat ride from your chosen Lembeh resort.

Wakatobi's clear teeming waters in a remote scattering of islands, far from any population centres, are best explored on a liveaboard.

Diving Season

You can dive Sulawesi all year round. The best time to dive Bunaken is from March to October, and the months of July and August are particularly popular. November, December and January have the least settled conditions here.

The best time to dive Lembeh for critter sightings is July and August, but the water temperatures are at their lowest then. So overall, conditions are perhaps best to dive the Manado area during between June and August, depending on your response to cooler water (26-28°C).

In Wakatobi, from March to December the diving is consistently very good. In the European summer months the surface tends to be a little choppier due to coral spawning.

Reef Summary

Good for: Small animals, wall dives, underwater photography, reef life and health, dive value-for-money and advanced divers
Not so good for: Non-diving activities
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 15 - 80m
Currents: Usually gentle in the north, occasionally strong in the south and outer islands
Surface conditions: Often calm but can be choppy
Water temperature: 26 - 30°C
Experience level: Beginner - advanced
Number of dive sites: ~250
Access: Dive resorts and liveaboard safaris
Recommended length of stay: 2 - 4 weeks

Dive Site Descriptions

For more on the detailed Sulawesi dive sites:

  • Lembeh Strait • Manado - Bunaken
  • Wakatobi

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